Managing Your Stress and Anxiety in the Time of Coronavirus

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With COVID-19 on everyone’s mind, it might feel like a scary time to be alive and an even scarier time to be pregnant. If your anxiety is spiking as you worry about getting sick, about your baby, about your partner, and about what exactly is going to happen with the world, this blog post will share some ideas about managing your mood in this challenging time.

Talk to a professional

If you’re spiraling into stress and feel as though it is negatively affecting your life, please talk to your care provider or mental health professional. Your care provider is someone who you can always speak to about your concerns, especially if they are pregnancy, labor, birth, and baby related. They might have answers to questions that help calm your racing thoughts or might have a recommendation for a mental health professional. Many therapists are now seeing people virtually and can provide talk therapy almost as well as in-person without you having to leave your home. It’s normal to have strong emotional reactions to challenging times, but you don’t have to suffer and a professional might be able to help.

Stay informed, but not too informed

It’s easy to get news these days, both good news and bad news. And while staying informed can be good, it can also be overwhelming. If you’re feeling stressed by coronavirus news, commit to just one news source. Maybe that’s a specific website, or maybe that’s your city or state’s public messages. Other than the one news source you’ve committed to, don’t read or watch or listen to anything else. If someone brings up news that you think will stress you out more, ask them to please change the subject. Limiting your news intake to a reasonable amount will ensure that you know what you need to know, but that you don’t get lost in a scary news spiral. If this means staying off social media or limiting your time on platforms that tend toward infinite scrolling, you can use app timers on your phone to gently remind you when it’s time to log off.

Follow evidence-based guidelines

Really good places to look to for knowing what to do are your local health department, your doctor or midwife’s office, and the World Health Organization (WHO), which offers information through the WHO website and social media platforms. Aside from these sources, there is a lot of nonsense out there and it can be anxiety-producing to try to decide who to believe.

Keep in touch with loved ones

In a time when most people are being encouraged to isolate socially, it can feel really lonely to be pregnant. You might have had to cancel your baby shower, and if you were trying to get in adult social time before baby, you’re probably missing those friend dates, too. It’s okay to grieve these losses, and at the same time, see if you can find other ways to keep in touch. Video conferencing through a platform like Zoom, or video chatting with Skype or FaceTime isn’t a great substitute for in-person interactions, but they’re better than nothing. It’s possible to have brunch or play a game with friends while everyone stays safe in their own homes.

Exercise

It’s not easy to exercise if you’re trying to stay close to home to avoid virus transmission, but you have options and exercise is a great way to get a handle on your anxiety. A virtual prenatal yoga class or a walk with your spouse in your neighborhood can work wonders for your mood. Plus, there are other benefits of exercise during pregnancy, such as labor preparation and your and baby’s health.

Try mindfulness meditation

There are plenty of online video and audio tutorials that provide introductions to mindfulness meditation. My favorite is Nancy Bardacke’s audio companion to her book Mindful Birthing, but you can find plenty of options with a quick internet search. Mindfulness meditation is wonderful, but if you feel too scattered for focused practice, just try to catch moments of mindfulness throughout your day. This just means taking a minute to breathe deeply for two breaths every time you go to the bathroom or noticing how the water feels on your skin as you shower.

Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and children in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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